Friday, May 15, 2009

Slavery in Bolivia... The BBC and UN finally catch on

The BBC grew some "huevos" today and ran a report on the ongoing use of near slave labor on Bolivian plantations. Pretty appalling to think this is going on in the Americas.

A friend of mine, whose father made his way to the United States selling cabbages on the streets of post-war Korea proposed a question to me the other day. "What is the big deal in particular about Bolivia? After all, you have seen Slumdog Millionaire, there's really poor people everywhere and I'm sure India has a lot more and a much dire levels of poverty than Bolivia does."

Perhaps his perspective has some truth to it. It does not however, change the fact there is a democratic country in the Americas which has pockets of slavery. I say pockets because I am sure this is a one of the extreme examples the media has chosen to focus on, hurting the Bolivian farmers out there who are good people, who do treat their workers fairly and are just trying to earn a living.

Here are a few excerpts from the BBC report

"A senior UN official recently described as "unacceptable" the alleged forced labour of indigenous people by landowners in Bolivia. The BBC's Andres Schipani reports on the contentious issue of "slavery" from the eastern province of Santa Cruz."


"All my life I've been here and at the end of it I have nothing and have nowhere else to go," she says.

Her hamlet of 13 Guarani families - all workers on the plantations near the town of Camiri in Alto Parapeti region in the eastern province of Santa Cruz - built a school but ranchers destroyed it, she says.

"They didn't want us to learn, they want things to be like they always have been," Teresa's granddaughter, Deisy, says.


The other side, a.k.a, the owners of the large plantations has this to say for themselves.

"The idea that there is slavery here is absurd … Offering loans and selling food is not a debt trap but a favour because there are few banks and shops in the region," says Eliane Capobianco of the rancher's association Fegasacruz, in the eastern city of Santa Cruz, the opposition heartland.

Click here for the complete BBC report